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LAS VEGAS — Independent pharmacy owner-operators, by definition, stand somewhat alone. It’s the nature of their calling, and it defines their particular brand of pharmacy retailing as a responsive, patient-focused center for community care and high-touch, individualized personal service.
But the 2,000 or so pharmacists who joined McKesson Corp. for the healthcare and wholesaling giant’s annual conference for its independent pharmacy customers also know there’s strength in numbers. That’s one of the undercurrents that propelled the energy level at the four-day event, held June 24 to 27 at the Venetian Resort Hotel and conference center here.
The hard-pressed community health innovators who made the trek to Vegas were keenly aware that they stand a much better chance of thriving in a harsh retail marketplace if they come together every so often to share ideas and best practices — and if they can find ways to present themselves as a united front to payers, government health plans and regulators, and other health providers.
McKesson’s trade show for independent pharmacists is now more than three decades along. This annual gathering of many of independent pharmacy’s most successful and innovative practitioners has become a showcase of both new and proven concepts in community-based, accessible health services, along with the latest in workflow automation and prescription dispensing technology.
In recent years, the conference has expanded in scope and reach. This year’s edition featured idea-sharing panels and roundtable discussions; insights from experts on big-picture issues like pharmacy best practices, health reform and the political outlook; and more than 30 accredited CE courses on everything from expanding clinical services by pharmacists to successful financial management.
To capture that “spirit of collaboration and learning,” the company renamed the event in 2011, from Pharmacy Strategies Conference to McKesson ideaShare.
“McKesson created ideaShare to provide you with a forum to generate ideas together that can ultimately help you drive your business forward,” McKesson VP and group president Paul Julian told independent pharmacy owners at the opening session of the 2012 conference June 25. “There’s tremendous opportunity for independent pharmacy as health care evolves.”
Julian reminded those owners that they’re “more connected than ever to other players in health care."
“These players are increasingly looking to you to help improve patient outcomes,” he added. “You are in the best position to provide care more cost-effectively.”
On the trade show floor of the Venetian’s expansive exhibition hall, pharmacy owners go do business with more than 200 exhibitors. They could also road test McKesson’s entire toolkit of services, products and programs for independents. Among them:
- The Sponsored Clinical Services Network, a membership-based suite of programs from McKesson that promote patient adherence, clinical trials for patients and improved patient outcomes. “In 2011, pharmacies in our Sponsored Clinical Services Network earned $1 million in service fees for providing patient support services and supported an estimated quarter of a million patients,” said Brian Tyler, president, U.S. Pharmaceutical. Among the offerings from Sponsored Clinical Services are the Pharmacy Intervention Program [PIP] — which boosts patient adherence via personalized behavioral coaching sessions from pharmacists, and the newly expanded ScriptAlert messaging and mobile application, which provides automated refill reminders, refill notifications and the ability to auto-refill prescriptions to patients through mobile devices, texting, email or phone links. Current and prospective Health Mart franchise owners were also given their first look at “Your Pharmacy Online,” a consumer-facing online platform through which owners can highlight their pharmacy’s personality and services.
- The Health Mart pavilion, featuring a store mockup on the trade floor that showcased the latest design concepts, pharmacy technology and wellness-themed product display ideas for Health Mart owners. Attendees also could step aboard a Health Mart Healthy Living Tour bus parked next to the concept store for free preventive-health screenings.
- The McKesson OneStop Generics program, an industry-leading service designed to give members a competitive advantage with me-too medications and maximize their generic fill rates and profitability.
- Access Health, a comprehensive managed-care program and pharmacy network to boost independent pharmacies’ membership in — and reimbursements with — health plans and pharmacy benefit managers.
- RelayHealth, a division of McKesson that gives independents the tools to compete with chain pharmacies by automating prior script authorizations, boosting claim reimbursement accuracy, etc.
- The McKesson Physician Outreach Program, an online search engine and reporting tool designed to boost relationships and profitable communications with local doctors and clinical practices.
- A technology pavilion where owners could try out McKesson Pharmacy Systems solutions like EnterpriseRx, a powerful integrated pharmacy workflow system; and PharmacyRx, a cost-effective pharmacy management system designed for quick installation and rapid script processing.
- A variety of front-end programs designed to improve profitability, including the full-line Sunmark private-label program, a complete home healthcare offering and a new Health Mart store-branding program that already encompasses some 330 OTC items.
In 2013, McKesson will mark 180 years in business. The independent pharmacy owners who rely on its distribution and support services are hoping their stores will be around that long, as well.